Greys Outer Heaven
Outer Heaven is a massive leap forward for Toronto post-punks Greys. Delivering on the promises made on 2015’s Repulsion EP, the band tempers their trademark onslaught of discordance with new textures and subtle dynamics, building a more spacious and melody-driven environment atop their noise rock foundation. They fearlessly explore every extreme, simultaneously delivering their most intense and accessible moments, often within the same song.
“We never want to do just one thing,” says frontman Shehzaad Jiwani. “We want to incorporate as many disparate sounds as possible, yet still have it sound like the same band.” This bold approach saw them return to Montreal to record at the hallowed Hotel 2 Tango studio (Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) with longtime producer Mike Rocha, giving heavy hitters like “Blown Out” and first single “No Star” unprecedented atmospheric depth while never compromising the band’s characteristic cacophony.
The young quartet stretches its limbs like never before on more delicate tracks like “Erosion,” where Jiwani sings softly over Cam Graham’s delicate guitar, recalling the dream pop qualities of early Deerhunter or late-period Unwound. Elsewhere, on “Sorcerer,” bassist Colin Gillespie and drummer Braeden Craig launch an unrelenting yet hypnotic assault that falls somewhere between Sonic Youth and Portishead. With ten tracks at just under forty minutes, Greys raise the bar for what is expected of a punk band in the 21st century.
Presented here is a conversation with noise rock outfit Greys. The Toronto quartet is comprised of singer/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani, guitarist Cam Graham, bassist Colin Gillespie and drummer Braeden Craig. They are about to release their third album, Age Hasn’t Spoiled You, on Carpark Records. Here are some things they had to say about it.
Q: Does the title mean you guys are getting older?
A: Not exactly. We mean this current age, the present. Your era. Your past. Your generation. It doesn’t define you. It’s rebelling against the notion that you are a product of your time. We’re taking a snapshot of things exactly as they are, from our perspective, if only to break free from it.
Q: But you aren’t kids anymore, either. This is your third album. How does it feel?
A: If nothing else, we’re confident that we are doing our best to push ourselves forward without looking back. Albums like Check Your Head, To Bring You My Love, Fear Of Music, Microcastle, Reign In Blood, To Pimp A Butterfly, Some Rap Songs… All of these artists cast off their shackles on their third albums and they were reborn as a greater version of themselves. That’s what we had our sights on – a reincarnation of sorts. I couldn’t tell you if we accomplished that, but I can say that we tried to push ourselves about as far outside our own perception of what a “rock band” can be while still retaining certain characteristics that make us sound like Greys.
Q: When you say “shackles,” do you mean you felt restricted creatively prior to this?
A: In many ways, yes. Constrained by our own self-imposed limitations, like speed, or volume, or methodology, like only recording live to tape. We existed primarily as a live band and our old records reflected that, but lately, the traditional rock setup just wasn’t inspiring us. This time, we spent a year in the studio, wrote about 20 songs, and embraced the challenge of making something more cerebral and cinematic. Recreating it live never factored into the equation. We entertained every idea that came to our heads using whatever we could get our hands on: samplers, drum machines, synths, tape loops, whatever. It was more about experimenting with tension, dynamics, space and textures than brute force.
Q: The lyrics seem to embody that, sitting more in an abstract zone than your usual, topical approach.
A: We tried to do something more impressionistic than literal. The socio-political stuff is still in there, because it’s impossible not to internalize what is going on around you, but the gaze is inverted back inward to dissect how your surroundings can shape you, and how you either resist that or become a product of them. The goal was to spark several conversations at once, not just home in on a specific subject for each track. If your takeaway from “Kill Appeal” is that it’s about gentrification, police brutality, Indigenous rights, mass shootings, drug dependency, James Baldwin, or all of the above, there’s no wrong answer.
Q: The music similarly goes in many different directions at once. Were you concerned that the variety of sounds on display might cloud your overall vision?
A: We’ve been a band for eight years. The four of us playing together will always sound like ourselves, no matter what. The bands we grew up listening to incorporated many different styles into their music. The way algorithms work – on social media, on streaming services, whatever – they want to shepherd you into boxes that make your personality easy to compartmentalize. People aren’t like that. Life isn’t like that. This record speaks to the chaos and unpredictability of our day to day lives as we skirt the very real possibility of nuclear annihilation. It represents where we are at right now, particularly as this middle child generation who grew up without a workforce to enter and without technology being an extension of our bodies and minds. It would be a betrayal of our age not to address these complicated situations in our music and lyrics.
Q: Do you think people will hear that and embrace this record?
A: We like it. Aside from that, who fucking cares?
JUST LIKE HEAVEN
• Publicity by Brixton Agency
• College and commercial specialty radio promotion by Terrorbird
• North American tour planned, including SXSW appearance
• Indie exclusive edition LPs on white vinyl limited to 500 copies
• Produced by longtime collaborator Mike Rocha at infamous Hotel 2 Tango studio (Arcade Fire, Godspeed You! Black Emperor)
• Vinyl includes free digital download
Deluxe LP: 677517011340
Standard LP: 677517011319
2. No Star
3. If It’s All The Same To You
4. Blown Out
6. Complaint Rock
7. In For A Penny
8. Strange World
10. My Life As A Cloud